Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) has often inflamed critics by downplaying the risks of reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic, resisting calls for a statewide mask mandate and attending large events without wearing a mask in a state with rising covid-19 numbers.
“Right now, I feel fine — no symptoms of any kind,” Parson said in a recorded message posted on Facebook. The first lady is exhibiting mild symptoms, the governor said.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Missouri, which has recorded almost 117,000 cases and nearly 2,000 deaths, according to The Washington Post’s tracker. A Sept. 13 report from the White House coronavirus task force, obtained by radio station KCUR, said by population, the state had the fourth-highest rate of new cases in the country.
Throughout the pandemic, Parson has often resisted calls for tougher measures from health experts.
In March, the governor declined to issue a stay-at-home order in Missouri, saying social distancing rules and banning large gathering was enough. The next month, facing mounting pressure as more than 30 states enforced similar orders, Parson issued one. But some health experts called Parson’s order weak, noting it allowed every business to stay open, not only those considered “essential,” as long as there wasn’t a gathering of more than 10 people.
In May, Parson, along with four other Republican governors in the region, wrote an op-ed for The Post promoting their effectiveness on keeping the economy open and maintaining low infection rates.
“The Plains states have managed this emergency exceptionally well by many measures,” the governors wrote. “Our states’ experiences offer collective proof that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the best way to address unique circumstances.”
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Within months, though, Midwestern states including Missouri faced rising case numbers.
In July, Parson criticized local governments for closing recreational facilities for children and called for schools to reopen with in-person classes. The governor told KFTK radio host Marc Cox he wasn’t concerned about students contracting the virus.
“They’re at the lowest risk possible,” Parson said. “And if they do get covid-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctor’s offices. They’re going to go home and they’re going to get over it.”
In a response, Missouri’s Democratic Party noted children can spread the virus to older relatives. “Mike Parson today said he is fine with every child in Missouri getting COVID-19 and spreading it to their family members,” the statement said. “There is no place in our politics for such a reckless disregard for Missourians’ lives.”
Parson has also held firm on not establishing a statewide mask mandate, which was among the recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force on how to lower his state’s infection rate. Sixteen states don’t have statewide mask mandates.
Parson has encouraged Missourians to wear masks and to social distance. “I don’t want anybody to think I’m anti-mask, because that’s not the case,” Parson told KFTK. “I just don’t think it’s government’s place to tell everybody to do that.”
Critics note, though, that Parson hasn’t consistently followed his own advice. In July, he tweeted pictures from an indoor event where he didn’t wear a mask and stood close to other people. An image also showed him grilling steaks while not wearing gloves or a mask.
In August, the governor didn’t wear a mask as he spoke at the Missouri State Fair, along with the majority of the crowd members who were also not social distancing.
Parson is not the first governor to test positive for the virus. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) contracted the virus in July. Stitt, similarly, has stated he would not mandate masks.